Nuclear Powers Continue to Upgrade Their Arsenals

The number of nuclear weapons in the world is declining, but at the same time it is being modernized. Nuclear powers see it as the basis of their defense strategy. DW is about the main findings of the SIPRI annual report. Over the past year, there has been a little less nuclear weapons in the world, but they are being actively modernized, follows from the annual report of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), published on Monday, June 18.

Smaller not modern

Last 2017, it would seem, became a special one for opponents of nuclear weapons: 122 UN countries approved an agreement according to which they undertake to never, under any circumstances, develop, test or produce this type of weapon. However, the advance of the world without nuclear weapons from this did not come much closer.

According to SIPRI, in the world today there are 14,465 nuclear warheads that are at the disposal of nine states – the United States, Russia, Britain, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. And these countries are not at all going to give up their nuclear arsenal.

Compared to the previous year, the total number of nuclear warheads has slightly decreased (it was 14,935), but at the same time the existing weapons are being modernized, SIPRI expert Shannon Kyle said in an interview with DW. “That is, an obsolete weapon is being replaced. Some types of weapons are already 40-50 years old, but new nuclear weapons with new capabilities and technical functions are being developed, ”he stated.

Costly upgrade

In February, the United States confirmed the development of new types of nuclear weapons by unveiling its updated nuclear doctrine. This should affect Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany does not have its own nuclear weapons, but it is believed that up to 20 U.S. nuclear weapons of the B61 type are stored at the Buchel airbase. They must also be replaced by more modern nuclear warheads with high-precision guidance.

In total, Washington intends to spend $ 400 billion on upgrading its nuclear arsenal by 2026. But smaller nuclear powers like India and Pakistan are participating in a “strategic arms race,” Shannon Kyle warns: they are developing new weapons and at the same time increasing their production capacity to produce nuclear fuel. Nuclear weapons remain the backbone of the defense strategy of nuclear powers, SIPRI analyst notes.

Arms control in doubt

In light of the tensions between Washington and Moscow, Kyle fears for the future of nuclear arms control treaties: “At the moment, I am concerned about the fact that political and strategic relations between the US and Russia are actually destroyed, and these two countries account for 92 percent of the global nuclear arsenal “.

If after the expiration of the agreement between the Russian Federation and the United States on measures to further reduce and limit strategic offensive arms (START III), new agreements are not adopted, then there will be no contractual restrictions on arsenals, Shannon Kyle warns. START III is valid until 2021. “We are clearly moving away from the prospect of a world without nuclear weapons, which Barack Obama talked about in 2009,” he continued.

Last year, the SIPRI expert, who has long been monitoring the nine nuclear powers, was most struck by the technical successes demonstrated by the DPRK during test launches of long-range missiles with nuclear warheads. According to him, it is difficult to predict whether the meeting between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un will contribute to nuclear disarmament of Pyongyang: “I look at this with skepticism.” At the same time, this meeting opened the door for further measures to increase mutual trust, Kyle admits.

Record military spending after the Cold War

The SIPRI report also emphasizes that since the end of the Cold War, the world has not spent as much on defense as in 2017. The total amount of military spending rose to $ 1.739 trillion, or $ 230 per person living on Earth. A year earlier, this figure was 227 dollars per person.

The change in defense spending was uneven. The increase in allocated funds in East Asia is noteworthy: for example, China’s military budget has grown by 5.6 percent to $ 228 billion. In Europe, the picture is mixed: Eastern European countries in 2017 markedly reduced their defense spending compared to the previous year, and countries of Central and Western Europe, on the contrary, increased them.

Germany, according to official figures, spent 37 billion euros (about 43.5 billion dollars) on the Bundeswehr last year, that is, 2 billion euros more than a year earlier. The United States still has the largest defense budget – $ 610 billion, followed by China, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Arms trade is growing

SIPRI data point to another trend: over the past decade, world trade in military products has grown markedly. In the early 2000s, it was at its lowest level since the Cold War, but then everything changed.

Among the largest exporters of defense products, the first positions are occupied by the USA and Russia. Following them are also France and Germany.

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